Iraq has approached the International Atomic Energy Agency for approval to rebuild nuclear facilities almost 19 years after British and American war planes destroyed Saddam Hussein's last two reactors, according to a report published Wednesday in the The Guardian.
The Iraqi government has also approached the French nuclear industry about rebuilding at least one of the reactors that was bombed at the start of the first Gulf war, according to the British newspaper.
"We are co-operating with the IAEA and expanding and defining areas of research where we can implement nuclear technology for peaceful means," Raid Fahmi, the country's science and technology minister, was quoted as saying in the Guardian.
"After the dissolution [of the regime] we did not have an industry, but we have become more and more conscious of the need for nuclear technology. This was raised several months ago with the relevant bodies."
Fahmi told the newspaper that Iraq has "only peaceful applications" in mind for a nuclear program, "including the health sector, agriculture?and water treatment."
The Guardian also reported that radioactive material generated in Iraq, including yellowcake, a powder formed in the processing of uranium, is still unaccounted for six years after widespread looting at the site of the Tuwaitha nuclear research center on the southern outskirts of Baghdad.
All three of Iraq's nuclear reactors, known as Tamuz 1, Tamuz 2 and Tamuz 14, were located on the site. One of these, a French-made reactor, was destroyed in a 1981 Israeli air strike.
Fahmi admitted to the newspaper that there were "some impediments" to the plan. "At the moment, UN resolutions, including 707, don't allow us to enter this field, so we are lobbying for the resolutions to be lifted," he said.
The Iraqi bid comes at a time of escalating tension over neighboring Iran's nuclear aspirations.
According to the IAEA, the United States, France and Russia have already suggested that they intend to accept a draft agreement that would have Iran ship most of its uranium supply abroad for enrichment.
According to the agreement, Iran would deliver all the low-grade enriched uranium - 3.5 percent enrichment - from its plant in Natanz to a facility of Rosatom, Russia's atomic energy commission. In Russia, the uranium would be enriched to 20 percent and be sent to France, where it would undergo treatment that would transform it into fuel rods for use in reactors.
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